ARE women finally about to break the stainless-steel ceiling in Scottish professional kitchens? There’s certainly a buzz around the issue that is getting louder than an untended digital timer. News that Mhairi Tailor, co-owner of the Mhor 84 motel in Perthshire, is about to expand her Delizique and Cafezique empire in Glasgow’s west end with The Bakery by Zique in Hyndland, is sure to add to fuel to the fire. It is to be headed by a woman pastry chef, Lyndsay Michie of Ballahulish, who trained at double Michelin-starred restaurants Le Gavroche in London’s Mayfair and Restaurant Andrew Fairlie in Perthshire.

At Monachyle Mhor in Perthshire, Marysia Paszkowska has taken over from founding chef-patron Tom Lewis as head chef, and she headlined an all-female Scots chef line-up at £70-a-head banquet at the weekend’s Mhor Festival.

Among the culinary cast were Lorna McNee, reigning Scottish Chef of the Year, former Game Chef of the Year and a sous-chef at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles; Glasgow’s Rosie Healey, Ottolenghi-trained chef-patron of Alchemilla in the city’s Finnieston quarter; and Carina Contini, co-owner of three established Edinburgh restaurants.

Could it be that restaurant kitchens are to lose their reputation as male bastions of shouty testosterone? From the evidence so far, it seems so. But perhaps it’s not quite the revolution we think it is.

Scotland already has a number of well-established female chefs who are quietly doing their thing. When was the last time you heard of Lesley Crosfield of the Albannach at Lochinver, and Nicola Braidwood of Braidwoods in Dalry, both of whom have been slogging away to retain their Michelin stars year after year? Perhaps they’re too busy with the physical demands of lifting, cutting, boning, blanching, searing, baking, basting, smoking and fermenting the food they put out consistently day in day out. Ditto Carla Lamont, chef-patron of Ninth Wave on Mull; Suzanne O’Connor, who now oversees all the menus at the three high-profile Contini restaurants in Edinburgh; and Jacqueline O’Donnell, whose all-female kitchen at the Sisters in Glasgow has been delivering the goods for years.

There’s an argument that today’s women chefs are simply picking up the baton handed to them a generation ago. Scotland has a history of pioneering female chefs. Step forward Gunn Eriksen, whose Altnaharra Inn, Sutherland, was the first to gain two Michelin stars in 1994; Hilary Brown of La Potiniere in Gullane; Claire Macdonald of Kinloch Lodge on Skye; and Shirley Spear OBE, co-founder of the Three Chimneys on Skye.

Pam Brunton, chef-patron of the new, critically acclaimed Inver at Strachur in Argyll, says she likes having women in the kitchen along with men because when there’s a gender mix it creates a better atmosphere. Women are better at improvising, collaborating and, crucially, knowing when to stop and ask for help.

It’s got to the stage where a female head chef is now viewed as proof that a restaurant is at the cutting edge. Whether the food they produce is better than men’s is a different kettle of fish entirely.